My Kitchen Rules judge and paleo advocate Pete Evans is feeling the heat after calling sunscreen “poisonous”.
During a Facebook Q&A with his fans, Evans was asked what he used for sunscreen.
“Generally nothing as I keep an all over tan all year and don’t stay out for super long periods in the sun,” he answered.
“When I go surfing like I did this morning in Fiji when I was in the sun for four hours then I use a product called SurfMud which is as good as it gets for shielding from the sun.”
Evans said he avoids sunscreen because of “poisonous” chemicals.
“The silly thing is people put on normal chemical sunscreen then lay out in the sun for hours on end and think that they are safe because they have covered themselves in poisonous chemicals, which is a recipe for disaster as we are witnessing these days,” he wrote.
“We need to respect the sun but not hide from it either as it is so beneficial for us, but use common sense. The goal is always never to burn yourself.”
While there is definitely some truth to Evans’ comments — certainly, the goal is “always never to burn yourself”, and it’s never a good idea to lay out in the sun for hours on end, no matter what strength sunscreen you’re using — Paleo Pete’s response has come in for criticism from the Cancer Council.
“Cancer Council believes that comments like this are irresponsible and they’re quite dangerous,” Cancer Council spokesperson and melanoma prevention expert Scott Walsberger told The New Daily, adding that Evans’ claims are “just not supported by evidence”.
“The scientific evidence is quite clear that sun protection does help protect against skin cancers. We know that sunscreen is an important part of that.”
The chemicals that tend to cause concern amongst sunscreen deniers are ‘nanoparticles’ — nano-sized titanium dioxide particles and zinc oxide particles that have been used in Australian sunscreen since the ’90s.
In 2013, the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) — the body responsible for regulating sunscreens sold in Australia — found that these nanoparticles are nothing to worry about, and are not likely to cause harm when used as ingredients in sunscreens.
On the other hand, SurfMud — the product endorsed by Evans in his Facebook Q&A for being “as good as it gets for shielding from the sun” — is not approved by the TGA, and isn’t classified as a sunscreen. (The product’s own website warns that the company “can’t make any claims about its sunscreen efficacy or water resistance”.)
Evans has since hit back at his critics, posting an article by Melbourne-based naturopathic doctor John Pietryka to his Facebook page this morning.
“Anyone wishing to learn a bit more about VItamin D and Skin Cancer, please have a read of the following information by medical scientist — John Pietryka from Melbourne,” Evans wrote.
“John runs a great clinic and empowers people with up to date information. If you are looking for current and in depth medical testing in Australia, check out his website.”
Pietryka — who has also been critical of whooping cough vaccines — refers to a “number of studies” that show a correlation between the use of sunscreen and increased incidence of sunburn in his article, but does not provide links to these studies.
Evans followed up this post with another one accusing the “funk’n sneaky media” of twisting his words.
“Nope, I’m not hiding from the sun, I’m respecting it, by not staying out long enough to burn,” he wrote.
“And yup I’m wearing a non toxic sunscreen specifically for surfing too! Thanks you funk’n sneaky media & all you misinformed people trying to twist the story to create fear and drama, because in actual fact you’ve spread the good message further… Read labels folks, learn about what’s in your food, what’s in your sunscreen, your skincare, your haircare, your water and most importantly, please wise up to what you’re putting on or into your precious children!
“At the end of the day I’m just a passionate family man trying to do my best by my family and I’m openly sharing our journey.”
Evans has some form in this department — in 2015, he was given the Bent Spoon Award by the Australian Skeptics Society, honouring the “perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal pseudo-scientific piffle” for his controversial bone broth baby formula recipe, and his support of anti-vaccination advocate Stephen Mercola.
A disclaimer on Evans’ Facebook page reads: “The information on this page is general information and should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Do not use the
information found on this page as a substitute for professional health care advice. Any information you find on this page or on external sites which are linked to on this page should be verified with your professional health care provider.”
The Cancer Council recommends that you apply sunscreen liberally — “at least a teaspoon for each limb, front and back of the body and half a teaspoon for the face, neck and ears”.
Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen, they caution, resulting in wearers getting only 50 to 80 per cent of the protection promised by the product.
For more information about preventing skin cancer, visit Cancer Council’s website — and don’t take Facebook comments by celebrity chefs as gospel.
What do you think of Pete Evans’ stance on sunscreen? Have your say in the comments below!